The Cavaliers bent, but did not break.
Virginia led by as many as 19 points in the first half, but Louisville rallied to get to within two possessions of UVA at multiple points in the second half. On so many occasions this season, we have seen the Hoos crumble under the pressure, going on extended scoring droughts at the most inopportune moments, costing them several games.
This was a game the Cavaliers had to have and this time, the UVA offense delivered.
Virginia operated with poise down the stretch and went on a 12-2 run late in the second half to seal a wire-to-wire 64-52 victory over Louisville on Monday night at John Paul Jones Arena.
Virginia has made the quite the habit of bouncing back from losses. The Cavaliers are now 8-0 in games following a defeat. UVA looked out of sorts defensively in a 77-63 loss at NC State on Saturday. On Monday, the Hoos could not have asked for a better start, playing excellent defense out of the gate and building a 22-5 lead eight minutes into the first half.
Kihei Clark scored nine points in the first half and finished with a game-high 15 points as well as five rebounds and five assists.
After making just two field goals through the first nine minutes of the game, Louisville started to find the bottom of the basket. The Cardinals gradually cut into the UVA lead until Jarrod West knocked down a pull-up triple with 39 seconds left in the first half to cut it to a 10-point game.
Reece Beekman made a layup to put Virginia back up by 12, 35-23 going into halftime. That would be Beekman's only points of the game, as he attempted only two field goals. However, the sophomore guard was certainly a difference-maker on Monday night and nearly accomplished the uncommon feat of a non-scoring double-double, as he finished with 7 rebounds and a career-high 11 assists.
Beekman was surgical in finding the open man, whether that was Jayden Gardner for an open mid-range jumper or one of Francisco Caffaro or Kadin Shedrick on the pick and roll.
Virginia played very unselfish team basketball, registering 20 assists on 24 made baskets. Four different Cavaliers scored in double figures, including Jayden Gardner, who had 14 points on 7/13 shooting from the floor.
Still, Virginia's offense did go cold for a stretch in the second half, going more than five minutes without a field goal and letting Louisville stay in the game. A step-back jumper from Malik Williams, who finished with 10 points and six rebounds, made it a four point game at 45-41 with 11:54 remaining. But, the Cardinals would get no closer than that.
Virginia responded by holding Louisville scoreless for the next four and a half minutes and going on a 7-0 run to push the lead back up to 11 points.
To their credit, the Cardinals would not go away. Jarrod West, who led Louisville in scoring with a 14-point performance off the bench, knocked down his fourth three-pointer of the night on a heavily contested step-back jumper to make it 52-47 with five and a half minutes remaining.
Virginia's response was strong and came in the form of back-to-back thunderous dunks by Kadin Shedrick. On the first, Reece Beekman penetrated inside before dumping off to Shedrick in the lane for a two-hand slam. On UVA's next trip down, Jayden Gardner tossed up a lob to Shedrick, who slammed it in to make it 56-47 with 3:32 remaining.
Shedrick finished with 11 points, six rebounds, three blocks, and perhaps most importantly, only one personal foul in 24 minutes played. Both Shedrick and Caffaro, whose struggles with foul trouble have been a major issue for the Cavaliers this season, had only one foul each in this game. Caffaro had nine points and seven rebounds in the game.
Matt Cross scored a second-chance layup for Louisville to cut the deficit back to seven, but Jayden Gardner immediately responded with one of his patented mid-range jumpers.
Virginia's defense got stops on three consecutive Louisville possessions and Armaan Franklin finished a tough layup at the basket with a foul and made the free throw to put Virginia up 12 with less than 90 seconds to play.
Just for good measure, Kihei Clark sank a deep three-pointer with 35 seconds left to extend the lead to 15 points. Malik Williams made a three-pointer on Louisville's final possession, but Chris Mack called off the pursuit after that and UVA dribbled out the clock for the win.
With the victory, Virginia continues its dominance over Louisville since the Cardinals joined the ACC. UVA has won 12 of the last 13 meetings, including three straight wins over the Cards, and Virginia is 18-5 against Louisville all-time.
UVA improved to 12-8 overall and 6-4 in ACC play. The Cavaliers will hit the road again to travel to South Bend for a game at Notre Dame on Saturday at 6pm.